Live A Sockdolager [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Word genius sends me a word everyday. Some I know. Most I do not. Yesterday, my word-of-the-day was sockdolager. Sockdolager is a word that, when typed, is unrecognizable to the vocabulary in my spellcheck and is adorned with a screaming-dotted-red-line meant to notify me that either I spelled the word incorrectly or it’s not a word at all. Language is a fickle companion.

In Seattle, when the rains clear, people are fond of saying, “The mountain is out.” Mount Rainier, hidden in the clouds, makes a grand – almost impossible – appearance when the weather clears. Where there was no mountain, suddenly a Titan appears. It is a sockdolager, an exceptional occurrence. A forceful blow. The first time I saw it I almost crashed my car.

Mount Sopris hit us with a similar wallop. We arrived in Carbondale “in weather.” A day later, making a run to Main Street to meet Kirsten, we rounded a corner and nearly crashed the truck. There was a mountain towering over us where, previously, there was none. Clouds swirled around the summit. The late afternoon light made it glow. Sockdolager! Sockdolager!

I very much appreciate that my snotty spellcheck does not recognize or appreciate my use of sockdolager. No word can adequately capture the experience of being hit by a mountain. “Awe” is a word. So is “amazement.” They fall short, too. Language can reach toward but never quite touch that which it hopes to describe.

The day after the wallop we took a stroll on the Rio Grande Trail. We intentionally walked away from Mount Sopris, knowing that, at some point, to get back to our airbnb, we’d need to turn around and walk toward it. Like Orpheus leading Eurydice, we tried not to turn and peek but the majesty was too much. We’d giggle and turn and gasp. “My god!” we whispered.

We go to the mountains to remind us, to refresh our eyes and hearts and minds. This life. An exceptional event. A forceful blow. Grander than words can describe. Sometimes the mountain is hidden. Sometimes it shows its face. Either way, it never ceases to surprise you, to take your breath away. Sockdolager.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE MOUNTAIN

Take It Home [on KS Friday]

A Double Haiku

“It smells like mountains,”

she said, nose deep in blankets.

“Can we take it home?”

Mount Sopris’ towers

above nose, bed, and blanket.

A coyote howls.

read Kerri’s KS FRIDAY HAIKU

Walk In Circles [on Two Artists Tuesday]

The breeze like a puppeteer had the trees waving their limbs so the leaves whirled down all around us. It was a moment of trail magic, the kind that stops all inner-thought-rambling and pulls you to the surface, into full presence and delight.

Life lived in circle-time is much more gentle than the hard-time line we are accustomed to embracing. That is why we walk. We leave the line and step into the circle. Precisely because the circle goes nowhere and can only arrive at here. It pops like a soap bubble the illusion that life might be found elsewhere. The leaves rain down. Life is here. It is autumn again. It is familiar and mysterious, both.

It is very possible to think that life passes, a mile marker on a road. It is equally as possible to experience life as a single moment, the center of a cycle. Both/And. I will pass but the cycle will remain.

When I am on the line I cease seeing the full spectrum of color because my mind is blending the miracle into an elsewhere. When I am in the circle, the spectrum of color explodes, greens in yellow, warm purples and cool blue.

The line pulls life out of me. The circle fills me up. It is why we walk the trails, to refill.

The Ditch Trail in Colorado. The aspens radiant in orange and yellow. Snow was clinging to the shadows. Vibrant green grasses. “Concurrent seasons,” Kerri said, as she stooped to snap the photograph. There was water rushing in the distance, wind quaking the tree tops. The sun warmed my bones. “This is what hope feels like,” I whispered to no one, eyes closed, face to the sun.

“I don’t want to leave this place,” Kerri said, completely captured by the sense of her senses. Refreshed.

“Me, either.” Color popping and hopping all around me.

read Kerri’s blog post about CONCURRENT SEASONS

Wash Your Spirit [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in a while, climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” ~ John Muir

I did not know how badly my spirit needed a good washing until we were hiking the Ditch Trail. The aspen trees were just beyond their autumn peak so the mountainside popped with islands of orange and vibrant yellow. The only noise was the breeze murmuring through the trees, quaking the leaves. I literally felt the world of angry people drop away. I breathed deeply the air, the sun warmed me to the bone. The cleansing commenced. Silence of the mind.

Jim once told me that people go to the seashore to experience the eternal. The tides were coming and going long before your birth and will come and go long after you are gone. It puts everything into perspective.

The mountains are like that, too. They are perspective-givers. This week Horatio told me “This life is short so we better get out there and do what we want to do.” The mountains are in constant motion but our lifespans are too short to see the waves rising and falling. On our last day in Colorado, while climbing above timberline, I realized (again) that in my short life I have been less and less concerned with what I want to do and more and more interested in how I want to be. Standing at the edge of Lower Lost Man Lake with Kerri and Kirsten, a bitter wind watering my eyes, I wanted nothing more. The spirit washing continued.

Driving back to Wisconsin, we mused that our re-entry into the world of people would be difficult. It was nice to be out of the fighting and the lying and the aggression. It made me wonder how the mountains perceive us. Such a small creature steeped in a full-blown-delusion-story of having dominion over all things. “Hubris,” the mountain blinks and we are gone.

In the midst of our incessant search for value and meaning and achievement and worth and dominance, our bitter fight over whose story we will tell, the mountain issues an invitation. Come. Walk awhile. Exit the chatter and stand in this moment. What else do you seek?

read Kerri’s blog post about THE MOUNTAINS

Love The Bells [on Two Artists Tuesday]

A haiku from the road:

Maroon Bells and masks,

Autumn in Colorado,

The hills are on fire.

In 140 weeks of blogging together (5 days a week) this is the first prompt-image that we’ve posted of ourselves. It seemed fitting as we pause, visit family too long unseen, celebrate our anniversary, and ponder next steps.

read Kerri’s Two Artists Haiku

Walk With Me [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Lately, I’m dreaming of walking the Pacific Crest Trail. It is an escape fantasy. I want to unplug from this angry culture and its toxic division. I want to walk until it hurts. I want to listen to the wind. I want to think-no-thoughts.

I’m kinesthetic. Walking is a better form of meditation for me than sitting. I get quiet when I walk. Chris once told me that I should lead pilgrimages. At the time it made me laugh since I was certain I could probably guide the walk but had very little to offer seekers other than this bit of counsel: shhhhhhhhhhhh. Listen.

I grew up in Colorado and camped often. Say the word, “sacred” to me and I immediately hear the sound of wind rustling through the tops of pine trees. Once, walking a trail in the mountains, it began to gently snow. The forest stilled. It was so quiet I thought for a brief moment that I’d grown deaf. The wind. The quiet. I heard myself catch my breath. Sacred.

At the beginning of this pandemic time, we’d wake in the morning and, sometime during coffee, we’d remember. “Oh, right,” Kerri would say, “we’re living in a sci-fi movie.” The night had forgiven the previous day’s stresses.

One day in Bali, walking down a long road, I felt unsettled. A young man came from the fields and joined me. At first I was perturbed because I wanted to be alone but soon I found his company reassuring.  I asked where he was going and he said, “With you. I walk with you.”

I was confused and asked “Why?”

He was confused by my question. “You are a guest here,” he said in his broken English. “To let you walk alone…is not nice.”

I thought of this young Balinese man, my one-day companion, as I drifted off to sleep last night. The gentle courtesy of his act. His deeply felt obligation of presence. His work-of-the-day was less important, less vital, than showing spontaneous kindness to a stranger. Would I need my escape fantasy, my epic walk, if the people in my country were as generous, as respectful of each other, as he was to me?

“Life is grace. Sleep is forgiveness. The night absolves. Darkness wipes the slate clean, not spotless to be sure, but clean enough for another day’s chalking.” ~ Frederick Buechner

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ANOTHER DAY’S CHALKING

 

 

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held in grace: rest now ©️ 2016 david robinson

Put A Face On It [on DR Thursday]

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Strange times. The ukulele band that used to meet every Wednesday evening on our back deck now gathers on Zoom. The time delay makes it impossible for everyone to play and sing together but everyone has adjusted, adapted, and accepted the obstacle; the out-of-sync noise we make is beautiful because we are making it together. For me our noise has become an affirmation of the best of humanity in a time of celebrated ugliness: people are capable of reaching the essential when they want to. It is not the sound of the music that matters, it is the togetherness that is necessary.

It was a rough morning. We’ve been trying to find a way to safely go to Colorado to visit Kerri’s daughter and my parents. It’s been over a year. Kirsten wrote and asked us not to come. “It’s a COVID hotbed here,” she wrote. “With how cautious you guys are trying to be it doesn’t make sense to go to a place where people don’t care.” She lives and works in a mountain town, a tourist destination. “All the respectful tourists stayed at home like they’re supposed to so we have all the a**hole ones here, lol.” In the store where she works, people yell at her when she asks them to put on a mask. “It’s the law right now,” she wrote.

People, as we know, are capable of missing the essential. All across this land they are capable of not caring. The latest projection of pandemic deaths in America by November stands at 208,000. That grim number drops by an astounding 45,000 if, today, people started wearing masks, practicing social distancing, washing their hands. If people, today, started considering the impact their actions have on the lives of other people.

45,000 lives. 208,000 people. Those numbers are derived from the best science, from data – you know – the stuff we choose to ignore. The real trouble with numbers is that they don’t have faces, they are without story. They are sterile. Their family groups do not mourn when one goes missing. A simple number: 45,000.  Never was there a massacre so simple to prevent.

Celebrated ugliness. An demonstration of all that is wrong with us.

The music is out of sync. People are capable of reaching the essential if they want to. But first, they must want to. It is the togetherness-in-action that is necessary, even if our togetherness means to agree to stay apart, to mask our faces. Caring. It is an affirmation of our humanity.

Without that, what is left? Numbers. Just numbers.

[This is a sketch of Kerri conducting one of the Zoom rehearsal. It is next up on the easel. The canvas is already primed and the charcoal image is in place.]

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE SKETCH

 

 

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winged ©️ 2018 david robinson

Feel The Mountains [on Two Artists Tuesday]

 

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Look carefully. In the distance you will see the mountains. “It kills me, “Kerri said, staring out the window as we drove east out of Colorado. She craned her neck and watched as the mountains faded into the distance. She took a picture more to reach than record them.

The mountains make her weep. Seriously. Driving up the canyon, leaving the flats of Denver behind, she catches her breath and then the tears roll down her cheeks. “It’s so beautiful.” she utters, wide-eyed, incapable of taking it all in.

Leaving them is harder still. I watch her writhe in her seat, growing more agitated the further away that we get. “Damn it,” she fumes. These mountains are her holy land. They inspire songs and poems and musing. Leaving is not a geographic equation. She feels the separation.

In every corner of our home you will find a pile of rocks, mementos from our travels. And, in each pile, among all the other treasures, there is always a special rock, a mountain rock. She surrounds herself with mountains, even living on this great plain, a block away from a great lake. An artist knows where her power comes from.

She sits at her piano. She opens her computer to write. Surrounded by mountains, she composes. She feels the connection and it fills her with inspiration. Going home is not a geographic equation.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MOUNTAIN IN THE DISTANCE

 

 

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Live So Much [On Merely A Thought Monday]

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“So much life lived this week,” Heidi said to Kerri. Yes. So much.

It is, of course, true every week. Some weeks it is simply more apparent. The happenings seem bigger. A wedding. A graduation. A passing. A new job. A birth. A week of life.

Last week? A walk on the beach. Both children under the same roof; something that has not happened in years. Travel to another state. Staying present with my dad for those moments when he’d forgotten who I was. Staying present with my mom as a wave of fear washed over her. A job lost. Taking his keys and truck away. The deep gratitude of sleeping in my own bed, even for a night. So much life lived.

I have taught myself, in my waking moments, to think, “Make this day a discovery.” I have given too many weeks of my life away, too many days, too many hours, too many minutes, believing that I knew what was going to happen. Dulling myself. Blinding myself to so much life happening. ‘Discover the day’ is a much better approach than ‘Get through the day.’ The truth: none of us really know what is going to happen.

And this week?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SO MUCH LIFE LIVED.

 

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Make Better Assumptions [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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As a kid, riding up the mountain to Central City (long before it morphed into a casino town) to visit my great aunt Dorothy and uncle Del, I’d always look for the hermit. With my face pressed to the window I’d scan for him.

Perched precariously high above the creek, his shack seemed in constant danger of sliding down the mountain. The only thing holding it in place was the cascade of rusting bean cans that he’d tossed over the edge after each meal. Decades of cans. And, every once in while, I’d catch a glimpse of him.

He was uniquely grey; his clothes, his long miner-forty-niner beard, his pallor. He was always standing still, looking over the canyon. I don’t think in all of my rare glimpses that I ever saw him move. I wondered if he’d just thrown a can over the edge. I wondered if in his moments of standing-stillness he pondered how he came to be the hermit in the canyon. If life forged him into a hermit or if he came into the world wanting to be alone. I wondered where he got his cans of beans. It was a great mystery that I spent long hours considering. Hermits are not known for shopping trips into town and it was long before the age of home delivery. Where did he get his money to buy all of those cans? Was he a wealthy miner, a Howard Hughes type who retreated into a paranoid seclusion? Who facilitated his solitude?

I am mostly an introvert so his retreat from society fascinated me. I’d try ‘hermit’ on like a costume. He wasn’t a monk though I wondered what he did all day; contemplation had to be on the list of things to do. I wondered if his shack was filled with paintings or wire sculpture, a reclusive Alexander Calder? A disenfranchised artist (now, there’s an oxymoron!) I wondered if his shack walls were lined with good books.

I wondered, if I climbed up the mountain to his shack, would he meet me with a shotgun and tell me to go away? Or would he welcome me and tell me that he’s waited a lifetime for someone to come for a visit? I liked the second scenario but the realist in me knew it would be the first. He was grey because he didn’t want to be bothered. He was alone because it was not safe to be in relationship. It’s always easier to close the door and growl than it is to open it and ask, “Can I help you?”

We see this sign often. It marks the door of a house on the road to one of our walking trails. In the absence of a canyon I suppose the only thing to do is paste your anger on your door. Every time I see this sign I wonder what would happen if love came knocking?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about GO AWAY

 

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